Affirming is an Action Word

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As my faith shifted and changed, I found myself in what I could call the borderlands. I vacillated between conservative evangelicalism and affirmation of queer identity, egalitarianism, and solidarity with my BIPOC neighbors in a way that runs counter to capitalism and nationalism in many ways. I’d always leaned toward acceptance in relationships, but when pressed, I’d hold the conservative, Christian, patriarchal line.

That started to change as I met more and more people outside my conservative, Christian, patriarchal bubble, and as more people—people I loved—left it. I got very, very uncomfortable with those old arguments.

But a lot of us were there, weren’t we? In churches trying to stay relevant in a changing culture. With complementarian leaders trying not to look like relics of the Stone Age. Trying to figure out what to say to our LGBTQ friends and family. With the line between nation and kingdom suddenly causing problems.

All but the most stringent and certain had to find a place that at least looked and sounded more loving. But I’m worried that’s where many stopped: at looking and sounding.

If that’s where we end, holding on to our former theologies, but reasoning that “Jesus hung out with sinners,” we aren’t all the way there. We’re living as renters in a borderland, and if we aren’t honest about where our mortgage is, we’re going to hurt people. Being cool, non-confrontational, and avoidant will only delay the pain to our neighbors who start to trust us.

While we are in the borderlands we need to be honest. We need to tell the truth if we still hold a mortgage in the patriarchy, even if we’re thinking about moving, or actively looking for a home on the other side. If you’re not there, you’re not there (to be fair, if you’ve moved your address to the progressive side, it’s fair to share that with anyone who might be invested in your doctrinal position as well).

But that doesn’t mean you have to have all the answers before you change your address.

You can commit to being queer affirming or egalitarian or anti-racist before you’ve got every Bible verse reconciled.

You can vote.

You can advocate.

You can put a woman in the pulpit.

You can perform that wedding.

You can use the right pronouns.

You can march.

You can step aside to let a person of color speak.

In fact, what you do to be affirming might be far more important, far more outward focused, than a handful of doubts or arguments still rattling around in your brain. As long as you are committed, and not going to pull the rug out from under anyone.

That’s where I ended up. Somewhere around 2018, my brain was too crowded to read all the books I needed to read or listen to every podcast on the subject. I had two tiny kids, had started freelancing, and was in many ways feeling very alone. My desire to have things tied up in a neat little bow wasn’t going to be met. But in the chaos the Spirit spoke up, and said, “it’s time to commit.”

So I committed. I started living an affirming life. I claimed my new address. It took some time to move all the furniture in, in some ways I still am. But that furniture—the specific beliefs and nuances—have somewhere to live, a spiritual home built on affirmation, saying “yes” to loving my neighbors.

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